Growing Grapes: Your first year’s goal
When you are growing grapes in the northern hemisphere, it will soon be spring and your grape vine will show signs of life after the cold winter. Hundreds of new grape growers will start a vineyard of their own, with great anticipation of having their own grapes one day.
This is great, as there is absolutely no other plant that responds more to personal care than a grape vine; just ask those who successfully started growing grapes the past growing season.
Unfortunately, there will also be those who will miserably fail as well. Those who think that by sticking a cutting into the soil is enough to ensure a productive grape vine and to succeed with growing grapes – think again. Although growing grapes is not that hard, you need to have a set of well-planned goals for the first growing season.
With this article, I want to give you some ideas on growing grapes and what you should strive to achieve during the first growing season. This will help you plan ahead and set your goals for the upcoming growing season.
Where you will be growing grapes?
Except for choosing the correct variety, the location where you will plant your grape vines are probably the most important step to becoming a successful grape grower. I see so many well prepared soils, great looking trellises and good looking cuttings, planted in a spot where a grape vine will for sure not become a productive plant.
Then what is the perfect site for growing grapes? Let’s start by looking at the soil.
Fortunately a grape vine can be grown on a relatively wide range of pH. The ideal pH for growing grapes is slightly acidulous; between 6.0 and 7.2, although you can go as low as 5,5 and as high as 7.8. But why is the pH so important to us?
When the pH of your soil is below 5, one major negative thing happens inside the soil. Clay particles in the soil will start to dissolve and aluminum (Al) ions will be released. These Al-ions prevent much needed magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) cations from binding to the soil and will be inaccessible to the growing grapes. In other words, what I’m trying to tell you, is to take a soil sample or two and let it be analyzed and do correctional fertilization before your start growing grapes.
Soil structure and texture for growing grapes:
The structure of a soil is The soil structure is the relevant position of individual soil, silt and clay particles to each other and include the pores these individual particles forms as well. Soil structure has a major influence on water and air movement, biological activity and root growth. Grapes do best on deep, well drained soils.
The soil texture is the relative proportion of clay, silt and sand particles in the soil. Clay particles are very small, and binds to each other, making the soil impenetrable for roots, air and water. These very clayish soils tends to compact with irrigation, so keep in mind to ad lots of organic matter to the soil.
Choose a sunny spot for your grape vines:
Grape vines need lots of sun for it to be productive – period! Plant your grape vine in spot where it will have direct sunlight for at least have 80% of the day. Without enough sunlight, the buds on the grape vine will become unfruitful and will not bear any fruit.
To give you an example; just next to my house, I have a 1.3 hectare Crimson Seedless vineyard – a beautiful vineyard with a good yield as well. My wife has got a lovely garden and I also love trees, but right next to the vineyard, stands an old tree that over shades about 5 vines in the vineyard. This past growing season, these vines only produced 5 bunches per vine, as to the rest of the vineyard that produces 16 to 20 bunches per vine.
Luckily there are 2000 more vines in the vineyard that can produce grapes, so I just leave the tree as it is, BUT what if you only had those 5 grape vines? See where I’m heading? When growing grapes, a sunny spot is imperative, so keep those trees away from your grape vines!
Growing Grapes: Preparing the soil and planting hole
Now, I’m not going to go into this too much, as I’ve written an article about this some time ago, but don’t underestimate the importance of properly preparing the planting hole when growing grapes. This is where your grape vine will spend the rest of it’s life. So do take care when planting your grape vine.
Achieve this during the first year of growing grapes and you are well on your way
to becoming a great grape grower!
(yes, it is possible!)
Growing Grapes: Training your grape vine:
Now this is where so many fail. Your goal for the first year of growing grapes should be to get the grape vine on the trellis wires as quickly as possible. Achieving this, will ensure that you can start developing the cordon or structure of the grape vine as soon as possible.
The sooner your structure is developed, the sooner you will have a grape crop to share with your friends and family.
DO NOT ALLOW A ONE-YEAR-OLD GRAPE VINE TO PRODUCE GRAPES!
If you allow a young vine to have grapes, you will only set back the much needed growth and your grape vine will not be strong enough to start developing the structure of the vine in year two. A one-year-old grape vine will not produce usable grapes anyway – so remove all grapes during year one.
Growing Grapes: Diseases and weeds:
The young grape vine’s biggest enemy are weeds and diseases like powdery mildew and downy mildew. Get rid of all weeds BEFORE planting the grape vine; this will make chemical weed control much easier. Follow a 10 day spray program to prevent diseases attacking your young vine. Right, I hope this growing grapes article will put you on the right track.
Remember: When growing grapes, it’s always good to plan ahead and think of what your grape vine will look like in about 5 years from now – then make your decisions.
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